Tuesday, November 22, 2016


In June of 2009, Iran held an election that pitted the incumbent President Mahmound Ahmadinejad against challengers Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohsen Rezaee. Although the incumbent President had captured 60% of the vote, there were widespread reports of election fraud (rigging) that led to demonstrations throughout Iran.

The protests in Iran started on the night of June 12, 2009, and lasted until February 10, 2011. In addition to numerous cities in Iran, the protests also expanded into a variety of cities in 40 other countries.

Officially, the number of deaths in the demonstrations was 36, but the number was actually closer to 72, and none of them were as famous as the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death was posted on Facebooks, and quickly became the most watched killing in history.

In addition to those killed, an estimated 4000 people were arrested, Although the world was largely sympathetic to the protestors, the protests were not successful in forcing Ahmadinejad from power. He was term limited by the constitution to two terms, and was replaced on August 3, 2013 by Hassan Rouhani, who is the incumbent President.

That video is posted below:

dying in the street

At the time of her death, Neda was 26 years old, and she worked for her family’s travel agency. She was apolitical, and was not participating in the demonstrations. She simply stopped by with her music teacher to observe. As she walked back to her car, she was fatally shot in the chest. Although the identity of the murderer is still in dispute, reliable sources say that he was a member of Basij, a paramilitary group. The individual who has been accused of being the killer is named Abbas Kargar Javid, who is a member of Basij.

Neda’s story came to mind the week of November 7, when Donald Trump shocked and surprised the world by gaining more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, even though she had gained roughly 400,000 more of the popular votes than he did. A week later, her margin was over 1,000,000 more votes, and is projected to be close to 2,000,000 by the time all the votes are counted.

In the latter stages of the campaign, Trump stated his belief that the election was rigged, due to the fact that virtually all the polls said the Hillary Clinton would have an easy win.

Trump is right. The campaign WAS rigged, but it was rigged by HIS campaign, not Hillary’s.

I have personally asked the Justice Department to investigation three specific areas of his campaign, which are as follows:

1) The website of the Democratic National Committee was hacked sometime this fall, and 20,000 emails were leaked to Wikileaks. In early October, the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community stated that they were confident that Moscow is behind the leaks.

2) 11 days before the election, FBI director James Comey sent a memo to Congress that he was taking another look at some of Hillary’s emails that had turned up in correspondence linked to Anthony Weiner, who is married (still) to Huma Abedin, a longtime friend of Mrs Clinton. She served as the vice chairwoman of Hillary’s Presidential campaign.

3) In mid - October, a senior Trump official told Businessweek that they had 3 major voter suppression operations in place. They were designed to suppress the votes of idealistic young liberals, young women, and African-Americans, all of whom are far more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. It is far too early to tell how successful the operations are, but the voter ID laws in Wisconsin, to use one example, caused 41,000 fewer votes to be cast in Milwaukee than were cast in 2012. In total, roughly 300,000 otherwise eligible voters in the state were denied the right to vote. Trump carried Wisconsin by 27,000 votes, and his margin in Michigan was an even thinner 11,000 votes.

Immediately after the election results were announced, protests erupted around the country. Both north bound Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and parts of I-94 in the Twin Cities were blacked for a period of time by the protests, which have been overwhelming peaceful, and without incident. The one exception (so far) is Portland, Oregon, where a protestor was shot in the leg. The website of GOPUSA described the incident as “shooting in Portland as thugs rail against the Democrat process”, ignoring the fact that the right of assembly is enshrined in the 1st amendment of the Constitution.

If the inquiries by the Justice Department are not successful in reversing the results of the election, the next option is the Electoral College, which is scheduled to meet on December 19. Although historically the Electoral College has concurred with the electoral vote total, they are not obligated to do so. Ironically, Mr. Trump said that the Electoral College was a “disaster” during the 2012 Presidential campaign. In the event that enough electors switch their votes, and both candidates wind up with exactly 269 votes, then the decision passes to the House of Representatives. There are only two times in the history of our country that the House decided on the President, and the most recent decision was in 1824.

The Electoral College was designed to be a compromise between the government and the people. Alexander Hamilton was concerned that a charismatic tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come into power, which is why he did not want the President to be elected ONLY by popular vote, but he DID want voters to have a say in the process. Since a charismatic tyrant DID recently manipulate the public and become President-elect, the Electoral College has every right to reject him.

When Vice-President elect Mike Pence recently attended a performance of the play “Hamilton” in New York, he was booed by some members of the audience. At the end of the performance, one of the cast members addressed Pence directly, and politely asked him to protect the rights of ALL Americans. Trump took that as harassment, and immediately demanded (by tweet) that the cast members apologize. Trump, of course, has never apologized to the 281 people that HE criticized during the course of the campaign, but that’s just how he operates. The New York Times listed them by name on October 24, 2016.

If the Electoral College decided that Hillary Clinton should be the next President, there will be howls of protest from Republican voters, and there would likely be significant violence, since we have already seen plenty of examples of that during Trump’s campaign. Once the Electoral College has made its decision, it is ratified by the Senate, and that meeting is scheduled for December 6. Since the Republicans now control by houses o Congress, it’s unlikely that they would agree to a President Clinton, but you never know.

Once Trump is in office, a few observers have noted that he could well be impeached by his own party, which would give us President Pence, which isn’t much of an improvement. One of the reasons that he could be impeached is fraud committed before being elected, and a court date is set in California for November 28 that will examine the fraud he committed with Trump University. The rape case of the 13 year old girl is also scheduled to take place in New York before the end of the year. Since he just agreed to settle the Trump University case for $25 million, that case will not be going to trial, but the rape case is still dangling in the wind – as are 75 other pending court cases.

If Trump somehow manages to last 4 years, he is unlikely to get re-elected due to the following reasons:

1) The wall that he promised his supporters along the Mexican border isn’t going to get built. Although Trump has said the wall would cost $12 billion, a Washington Post study said the cost would be $25 billion, and would not result in no economic benefit to the United States. Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall. If built, it would jeopardize our trade with Mexico, who is our 3rd largest trading partner. In 2015, we exported $267.2 billion worth of goods and services, and imported $316.4 billion. Since Canada is our 2nd largest trading partner, it’s clear that NAfTA was not the disaster that Mr. Trump said that it was.

2) He is not going to deport 11,000,000 illegal immigrants. According to a study by the American Action Forum, it would cost between $400 billion and $600 billion to do so.

3) He has already said that he isn’t going to repeal Obamacare, although it is certainly likely that it will be modified.

4) He has also stated that he is going to honor the nuclear arms treaty that was signed with Iran

5) If his tax plan were to be put in place, our national debt would skyrocket. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, his plan would increase our national debt by 5.3 trillion, a healthy increase over the 19.5 trillion dollars that it will be at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. It is interesting to note that the last time the national debt went down was when Jimmy Carter was President. Since the Eisenhower years, our national debt, as a percentage of GDP, had gone DOWN when a Democrat was President, and UP when a Republican was in office. Ronald Reagan nearly tripled the national debt when he was in office.

6) The “rust belt” jobs of the white workers in the Midwest who helped him get elected are not coming back. Technology has made them obsolete.

80% of the folks who would consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians voted for Trump, even though Pope Francis has stated that Trump was definitely NOT a Christian, and a lot of these folks voted for Trump due to the abortion issue. In at least some cases, that was the ONLY reason they voted for Trump. This issue was especially complex for Roman Catholics. Even though the Conference of Catholic bishops had urged them NOT to vote for Trump, a pastor in Phoenix has proclaimed that anyone who voted for the Democrats was as guilty of performing abortions as the doctor who actually performed them. Although the idea is absurd, there ARE a lot of folks who believe him.

Trump himself has long been pro-choice, and he urged his then-mistress, Marla Maples, to get an abortion when she got pregnant. She refused, and their daughter Tiffany was born on October 13, 1993. Two months later, she and Donald Trump got married in New York.

In late April, Trump changed his position on abortion 5 times in a 3 day time period, so none of us really knows exactly what his position is.

Although all of us would love to see fewer abortions, the fact remains that abortions go DOWN when Democrats are in power, and go UP when Republicans are in power. They peaked when Reagan was President, declined when Clinton was in office, and increased when George W. was in office. Since Obama has been in office, they have declined 13%, and are now at a 40 year low.

In Iran, the lives of the average citizens did not change much after the re-election of their President, but the members of the marginalized members of their society, especially the religious minority, suffered greatly.

In America, most of would not be greatly inconvenienced by a Trump Presidency, but since his election a week ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 400 cases of discrimination against Asians, blacks, and Muslims. Those incidents include a Muslim man whose car was fire bombed while driving on a freeway in Texas. When Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, many people watching the ceremony shed tears of joy, and our country during his tenure has improved tremendously, in spite of unprecedented obstruction from some members of the Republican Party. During the period that will eventually become known as the new Camelot, Sister Kathy Sherman’s song, “this is the America I believe in” took on new meaning.

Even is Trump does get sworn in, there are MANY public officials who will fight tooth and nail to defend the progress that we have made as a society, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (who Trump called Pocahontas on the campaign trail) will likely be at the forefront of many of the fights.

give him hell, Elizabeth

Neda’s story has long since faced from memory, but the peaceful protests that she witnessed are still very much alive in America today, and will help to keep our elected demagogues in check.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

those darn Catholics

We recently became aware of the fact that one of our friends from Minnesota, Connie Walsh, had participated in a Future Church teleconference featuring four women who recently became deacons in the Catholic Church. The last time that I saw Connie personally was about 5 years ago. At that time, she was considering becoming a priest, but later decided that the job involved too many administrative duties.

If you would like to listen to the teleconference, a link to it is below:

women on the altar

if you would like to learn more about Roman Catholic women priests, a link to the site is listed below:

let’s rock the boat

During the teleconference, Connie was asked who her modern role model was, and she said it was Sister Joan Chittester, who is a woman that I was familiar with.

Her biography is listed below:

who is Joan Chittester?

Her website is also shown below:

more about Joan

You’ll notice that she has written over 50 books (all of which can be purchased from Amazon) and she also has written numerous other articles. I thought it would be fun to read some of her books, but our local library was not able to obtain any of them.

They final succeeded in finding a book that contained about 6 pages related to her, so I asked them to order it for me.

The book that they obtained was written by Kerry Kennedy (daughter of the later Robert Kennedy) and it is titled “Being Catholic Now”. In addition to the comments by Sister Joan, it also contains comments from 36 other prominent Americans about their Catholic faith.

Kerry is a devout Catholic, as are the majority of the rest of the people in the book. Regardless of your religious background, or your current religious beliefs, it is worth reading. Without exception, the individuals who discussed the nuns or their local priests were very pleased with them. There was less agreement on the church hierarchy, especially the bishops and archbishops.

I guarantee that you’ll find the book to be very educational, but I also guarantee you that at least a few of the individuals quoted will make you feel uncomfortable, which is precisely how all of us learn and grow as we go through life.

If you can find the book at your local library, check it out. If you can’t, it can also be purchased from Amazon.

Go in peace.